Four delicious Malay recipes to cook for Hari Raya

Every year, Diana works hard to prepare the dishes for her annual Hari Raya open house, no small feat given that she often cooks for up to 60 people.

(THE STAR) - In the large, spacious Davis home, there is a constant buzz of activity. Mum Rosdiana Sidi Davis, better known as Diana, is shepherding her children like a seasoned pro, simultaneously telling one child to change into a different set of clothes and another one to take the cat out of the house.

Through it all, she looks calm and beautiful - not even the tiniest bead of sweat trickles down her gorgeous face, as she navigates the daily chaos of running a household filled with four active children.

But busy as she is, Diana still makes it a point to cook for her family every single day. "Dinie and I recently sat down and came up with the household menu for the next four weeks. I have to plan everything in advance," she says, motioning to her sweet 11-year-old daughter Dinie Karmila.

"It's quite a logistical challenge with so many children. They go to three different schools, so there are pick-ups and drop-offs and cooking after all that!" chimes in husband Gerald Russell Davis.

In many ways, cooking comes naturally to Diana as she grew up with a mother who was an excellent cook and was put through the paces from the time she was 10.

"One of the first few things I learnt to cook was sambal ikan bilis and nasi goreng. When I was a bit older, about 12, I learnt how to make beehoon goreng - which I thought was one level higher," she says, laughing.

Come Hari Raya, Diana kicks her cooking up a notch, as the family hosts an annual open house for up to 60 people that she cooks exclusively for.

"A few years back, I started doing open houses, because my kids were all older, so I could cook for people and invite them. I normally cook alone, my helper helps me tidy up but I do everything else myself," she says.

In putting together her Hari Raya menu, Diana looked to her mother for inspiration. "My mother is from Perak and she taught me how to make rendang tok, which I love because it has a different taste from other versions. And we must have rendang for Raya. Must have. Kalau tak ada rendang, tak ada Raya!" she exclaims.

Diana's rendang tok is delicious - large beef chunks coated in a thick, aromatic dry gravy buoyed by a spicy undercurrent.

She also makes a fiery ayam sambal, based on a family recipe she inherited from her mother. "In our family, the sambal all tastes the same, it's family-style. I have to have sambal for my Raya meal, that is a tradition - it's not complete without it," she says.

Diana was also fixed on the idea that a complete Raya menu should have some sort of gravy to balance out the dry rendang and ayam sambal. Also, she strongly felt that the rice (she makes nasi minyak) needed some sort of curry, otherwise it would be too dry. Which is why she decided to add a dalca to the menu too.

"I thought of a vegetable curry because I always have to have gravy to go with rice. And vegetarians can eat it too so it's a good vegetarian option," she says.

Adding the light, zesty jelatah (pineapple and cucumber salad) to her Hari Raya menu was a no-brainer for Diana who simply says, "It goes so well with the nasi minyak!"

As her Hari Raya open house is traditionally a week or two after Hari Raya itself, Diana makes some of the same dishes on the first day of Hari Raya for her kids who await the arrival of her food with eager anticipation.

"My god - they cannot wait! They look forward to it so much. The sambal ayam especially is everyone's favourite. On the first day of Raya, I make the rendang and ayam sambal and kuah kacang just for us," she says.

At her Hari Raya open house though, Diana's food is often met with the same enthusiastic reception. It seems her food is loved by all - both young and old alike.

"I even have to tell my husband, 'Please tell your friends to take turns eating!' Because they don't want to leave the table, they love the food and keep on eating!" she says, laughing happily.

Serves 6 to 7

For blending together
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp black pepper corn
3 star anise
5 cloves

For blending together
30 dried chillies, cut and boiled until soft
10 small onions
3 inches ginger
5 stalks lemongrass
1/2 inch (1.3cm) galangal
1/2 inch (1.3cm) turmeric root

For cooking
1 cup corn oil
1kg beef tenderloin
400ml thick coconut milk
3 tbsp kerisik
1/2 a block of gula melaka
3 pieces asam keping
3 turmeric leaves, sliced thinly
5 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
salt to taste

For garnishing
one stalk turmeric leaves, sliced thinly

To cook

Heat up the oil. Pour in all the blended ingredients. Mix together and cook until you get pecah minyak (a layer of oil emerges). This should take about 30 minutes.

Add the meat. Cook until the meat is soft, 30-45 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to mix well. Cook the mixture until it is thick and dry. Stir occasionally to avoid burning. This should take about 1½ hours.

Once the mixture dries up (depending on your preferred texture), turn off the heat. Transfer the rendang onto a serving plate and garnish with thinly sliced turmeric leaves.

Serves 6 to 7

1/2 a ripe pineapple
1 medium sized cucumber
1/2 medium sized red onion, sliced thinly
2 fresh red chillies, sliced thinly
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt

To make

Remove the pineapple skin and eyes. Cut into wedges and remove the core. Cut into 0.5cm pieces. Set aside.

Cut the cucumber into 4, lengthways. Cut into 0.5cm pieces. Set aside.

In a big bowl, mix all the ingredients together well. Adjust the amount of vinegar, salt and sugar to your taste. Refrigerate before serving.


Serves 6 to 7

100g yellow lentil
2 medium potatoes, cut into 6 pieces
1 carrot, cut into small pieces
2 tbsp meat curry powder
1 tsp tamarind paste
1/2 cup corn oil
3 small onions, sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1 inch (2.5cm) ginger, sliced thinly
2 stalks curry leaves
1 cinnamon stick (about 3 inches long)
2 star anise
3 cardamom pods
1 tsp mixed halba
300ml coconut milk
salt to taste
1/2 a brinjal, cut into small pieces
1 tomato, cut into 6 pieces
5 long beans, cut into 1-inch (2.5cm) lengths

To make

Wash dhal until the water is no longer cloudy. Soak overnight in water, then drain the next morning.

Boil 500ml water. Put in dhal and boil until very soft. Drain and blend it with a little dhal water. Reserve the rest of the dhal water.

Steam potatoes and carrot until half cooked. Keep the steamed water.

In a small bowl, mix meat curry powder and tamarind paste with a cup of water. Set aside.

In a big pot, heat up the corn oil. Stir fry onions, garlic, ginger, curry leaves and spices until onions are tender. Pour in the curry powder mix and fry until you get pecah minyak (a layer of oil emerges). Add 1 cup of steamed vegetable water and 1 cup of boiled dhal water. Let the mixture reach a boil.

Once boiling, add the blended dhal, coconut milk and salt. Leave it to boil. Then add brinjal, steamed potatoes and carrots. Cook until soft. Lastly add tomatoes and long beans. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve hot.

Serves 6 to 7

For marinating
1 whole chicken, cut into 12 pieces
1 tbsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp salt

For blending
50 dried chillies, cut and boiled
1 big red onion
1/2 tbsp belacan

For cooking
1 cup corn oil
1 tsp asam jawa (tamarind paste) mix in a cup of water
2 tbsp brown sugar or to taste
1 cup chilli sauce (any brand)
salt to taste
1 big red onion, sliced into ring shapes
parsley leaves, for garnishing (optional)

To cook

Pre-heat the oven to 150 deg C. Marinate the chicken with turmeric and salt and cook in the oven for 30-40 minutes. Take out and set aside.

Blend all ingredients for blending with some water.

On medium heat, add oil in a large frying pan. Pour in the chilli paste and cook for about 15 minutes or until oil surfaces and the paste is slightly dry. Stir occasionally.

Add the tamarind juice and stir. Cook for another 15 minutes or until the sambal looks thicker. Add the brown sugar, chilli sauce and salt to taste. Cook for 5-10 minutes.

Lastly, add the oven-cooked chicken and the onion rings. Mix well. Let it cook for another 5 minutes or until the onions are soft. Remove the chicken from the pan. Garnish with parsley leaves and serve hot.

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